By: Rodger Skidmore
Sarasota Film Festival
Seeing The Best Films in Sarasota in 2015
Definitions and Explanations
Seeing means seeing a film in a motion picture theater, not on television. And by seeing I mean getting up close and personal. Seeing a tennis match means moving one’s head back and forth (or if you’re at the net, moving your head up and down) to actually be one with the action. Watching a tennis match should not be the same as watching a couple of people playing Pong on their Atari. A film should be watched in the same way as the tennis match: be in the scene with the actors (just don’t talk to them even if they seem to be talking to you). Yes, some people get something akin to motion sickness if they get too close to the screen. Sorry ‘bout that.
Or course this viewpoint was formulated back when there were 16 inch TVs. Now with 40″ – 50″ – 60″ and up sets you can immerse yourself fairly easily in your own home – but still not the same.
The Best means what I like. Compared to what I like, what you like is dross. Unless, of course, what you like is what I like. But then again, you probably like it for all the wrong reasons. Basically that seems to be the premise of many critics (film, ballet, opera, concert or craft beer). So I am not going to be a critic here in the critical sense of the word. I am simply going to write what I’ve seen and, if you like that sort of thing, you might be inclined to attend yourself. (Well, yes, of course, I will indicate how much I liked what was shown and if there was continuity, pleasure/pain in viewing, etc., but that will not be my main thrust).
Films means not just movies. But then again, it doesn’t have to mean Cinema either. Happy Feet 17 is a movie, Casablanca is a film and anything by Jean-Luc Goddard is cinema, whether it is any good or not. We don’t have to be pretentious here, but (spoiler alert) Fast and Furious 8 is not going to be playing at next year’s Sarasota Film Festival. Film is a series of half second scenes, strung together, that give something meaning – almost anything is (and this is, of course, where we get into subjectivity rather than objectivity) fair game.
In Sarasota means films available here. Some of the films shown in the first few days will be repeated later in the festival. Great, these reviews will give you your first chance to view or not view. Some of the others will be picked up for distribution and others will not. This means some of the films will be “at a theater near you”, some will only be available after a fairly intensive Google search and others will be gone with the wind.
In 2015 means that which is new and is being shown now (or what is old and is being commemorated now). Will it be available later? Depends on how good enough people feel about it. See definition of Best, above.
The films that will be discussed in this column in the next few days are:
Title Show Time Other Festival Day Shown
Paradise, FL Saturday, April 11 4:00 PM Monday, April 13 7:45 PM
Therapy For A Vampire Saturday, April 11 7:00 PM Only day
Slow West Saturday, April 11 9:00 PM Sunday, April 13 4:45 PM
The Tribe Sunday, April 12 8:00 PM Only Day
Man From Reno Monday, April 13 12:45 PM Saturday, April 11 1:30 PM
Wildlike Monday, April 13 3:00 PM Saturday, April 11 3:00 PM
Viktoria Monday, April 13 8:00 PM Only day
Paradise Garden Tuesday, April 14 12:45 PM Only day
Maybe some others, time permitting.
QUICK LOOK at the schedule:
Four of the eight are only being shown once. So much for popular picks. Actually films like Time Out Of Mind with Richard Gere and I’ll See You In My Dreams with Blythe Danner were specifically not chosen as, if they are any good, they will be back later in the year for normal showings. Of course, if you like those actors a lot, now is the chance to see them and talk up their performances with your friends.
For two of the eight an earlier showing during the festival is available. This means you may be able to see and talk about the shows before many others, whose schedules do not permit the earlier viewing. You can do your own review.
Why were these specific films chosen to be reviewed in this column?
Because they are different.
First of all, all the films in the festival have been chosen because they are different. Most films (thousands are filmed every year) are not good. The judges who picked these particular films feel they are good / interesting / provocative / cutting edge / ……. that is to say, different.
An example – The Tribe (Plemya) is about a teenage boy entering a school for the deaf and dumb who is forced to join a gang (The Tribe) to survive. He falls in love with a prostitute and gets in trouble with the gang because of unwritten rules (how does a deaf person deal with unwritten rules?). There is no auditory language or subtitles and the dialogue is in Russian Sign Language for the deaf. Yes, this film will be different. And no, I do not expect it to be picked up for general distribution in the U.S. of A. But it will make me think, which is why I value it (after the viewing I may have a different take on this subject – hence the reviews).
NOTICE: In order to be timely the reviews will be written quickly (three in one day is a lot to see and remain coherent). This means they may be short and they may (based upon the time of night they are written) ramble a bit. Be forewarned.
And so they start:
But first, a retraction of a retraction. In my pre-ramble I said I really liked sitting up close so I could be in the action and then relented and said that with the new 60 inch screens viewing was better than on old 16 inch Philcos. Well, maybe so, but a 60 foot screen beats a 60 inch one any day of the week. When someone on screen looks up towards the mountains, you look up towards the mountains. A little bit like feeling what they are feeling – it adds to the connection.
The Sarasota Opera House was a good venue in which to show Paradise, FL, a regional film, as everyone likes to root for the home team. And it was a home team effort with a cast that includes six FSU / Asolo trained actors who certainly show off their craft. And 17 of the crew were from Ringling College as well. Jon-Michael Miller (Tommy), Kristopher Higgins (Sean), Lauren Sweetser (Kelly), Heather Robb (Maggie) and Castille Landon (Jenny) are all spot on as the residents of this paradise on the Gulf of Mexico. I guess it also says something about FSU/Asolo, as well as the director, Nick Morgulis.
The story is kind of a mild version of Winter’s Bone which starred Jennifer Lawrence and was shown at the SFF back in 2010. Yes, we are dealing (well, some of the characters are dealing too) with alcohol and drugs and family problems but oh!, the lovely sunsets. The squalid lives of the people that are living in this paradise are interspersed, on the screen, with lovely shots of our region’s natural beauty. Here in Sarasota we have the natural beauty and most of the people reading this review probably don’t smoke crack or snort cocaine and don’t punch each other in the face. At least not all three at the same time. Funny thing: Ms. Sweetser, who is the not so nice Kelly in this film, was also in Winter’s Bone.
The film does bring up a question: Does having a messed up life make you stupid or does being stupid mess up your life? Actually one can track both courses during the film (either multitasking or multi-tisk-tisking). They do not use the F-word as much as they smoke, but then, they do smoke a lot.
Of course, as with all films, one must not take what is portrayed as being what the filmmaker wants you to see; one must factor in one’s own life experience to what is shown on the screen in order to make the film personally meaningful. So, yes, these people make a mess of their lives – especially when one compares their lives to the lovely place in which they live. But then haven’t we all done a little bit of messing up our own lives (and the lives of some whom we purport to love)? so, does the amount that they’ve messed up their lives minus the amount we’ve messed up our own divided by the beauty of our environment allow us to cast the first stone?
By the end of the film not every problem is tied into a neat little bundle but there are not too many loose ends. And the sunsets into which they ride are really grand.
Therapy For A Vampire is very tongue in cheek, or should I say tooth in neck? The reason for that lead-in sentence is because this film highlighted for me the craft employed by those people who do the sub-titles for what we see on the screen. If you know and love the English language and how people (screen writers) can play with words, you will love this. But to take the double entendres that were written in German and make them work in English, that takes effort and it was done, seemingly, effortlessly.
While the film is a hoot, director David Ruehm made sure that the actors seemed to take themselves and their parts seriously. That helped to make everything seem fresh and inspired.
And the running Sesame Street gag, believe it or not, really is integral to the plot. The reference to Blad the Impaler, the first vampire, is fun also.
It may seem strange to call a movie about vampires cute but the second and fourth meanings listed for that word at Dictionary.com are:
2. appealing and delightful; charming, and
4. mentally keen; clever; shrewd.
That is not to say there isn’t enough blood to quench one’s thirst for gore, there is – but in a funny, endearing way.
Mixing Sigmund Freud’s explanations of dreams with real live vampires was fun to watch and must have been fun to write and film.
Why do directors go on location to Toronto when they do films about old New York? Because parts of Toronto look, today, like parts of old New York. And that is the reason they filmed much of Slow West in New Zealand; it looks much the way our idealized mental version of the old west looks. But maybe more beautiful. This is the film in which they look up at the mountains. And ride through the gullies. And the forests, And through a heck of a lot of trouble. A young lad from Scotland follows his one true love, who fled to the territories west of the Mississippi (he must have lifted a lot of money from his uncle’s sock drawer to make this trip) and ultimately finds her. But, as the quote goes – “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it”. Truer words were never spoken.
This film won the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival, and one can see why. There are hard times for all but they are presented in such a way that, while not funny, they don’t drag you down. This film probably will be picked up by a smaller distributer, wind up in theaters like Burns Court and will make a decent return on investment. If it had been made by a big studio or can get a big distributer, it will be shown in the Hollywood 20s around the US and make lots more money. It deserves to make the big time. Having an Academy Award nominated actor like Michael Fassbender as one of the two male leads will certainly help. The other lead, Kodi Smit-McPhee, as the callow Jay Cavendish, is dreamy, and young enough to be perfect for the role. He is an 18-year old playing a 16-year old.
Therapy for A Vampire and Slow West are eligible for the Sarasota Film Festival Audience Award and, after a poll of attendees, both are on a fast track to do so.
|English Title:||Therapy For A Vampire|
|Original Title:||Der Vampir auf der Couch|
|Type of Film:||Narrative Feature|
|Premiere Status:||US Premiere|
|Produced By:||Franz Novotny|
|(Novotny & Novotny Filmproduktion)|
|Thomas Thümena (Hugo Film Productions)|
|Editing By:||Claudio Cea|
|Production Design by:||Andreas Sobotka|
|Music By:||Adrian Vonwiller|
|English Title:||Slow West|
|Narrative Feature Competition|
|Type of Film:||Narrative Feature|
|Production Country:||New Zealand|
|Executive Producer:||Michael Fassbender|
|Produced By:||Iain Canning|
|Editing By:||Roland Gallois|
|Production Design by:||Kim Sinclair|
|Music By:||Jed Kurzel|
|English Title:||Paradise, FL|
|Type of Film:||Narrative Feature|
|Premiere Status:||World Premiere|
|Edward James Fagan|
|Executive Producer:||Jon-Michael Miller|
|Produced By:||Edward James Fagan|
|Cinematography:||Brandom D. Hyde|
|Editing By:||Andrew Halley|
|Production Design by:||Robert Foti|
|Music By:||Heather Robb|
For a description of every film’s plot, as well as show times, please go to: